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2018 legal changes: What’s on the agenda?

Richard Thomas
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What can we expect in terms of legal changes in 2018? Contributor Richard Thomas, Partner – Capital Law.

European Data Protection Regulation
(GDPR) is the result of four year’s work by the EU to bring legislation in line with the new ways that data is now being used. And it’s set to come into force this May. Described as the biggest change to data protection rules in two decades (since the laws were created in the 90s), GDPR overhauls laws that are essentially no longer fit for purpose.

Currently, the UK uses legislation from the Data Protection Act 1998, which was enacted following the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive. But, the new laws will supersede everything that came before it. They’ll vastly change how businesses and public sector organisations handle the information of their customers and stakeholders.

The new laws will introduce tougher fines for non-compliance and breaches, and also give people more control over what companies can do with their data. It also more or less standardises data protections rules across the EU. For more information: www.eugdpr.org

Gender pay gap reporting for private companies
By 4th April 2018, private sector employers (with at least 250 employees) will be required to publish gender pay information. Gender pay gap reporting legislation will require large employers to publish their overall mean and median gender pay gaps. It will apply to both salaries and bonuses.

Employers must publish the results on their own website, as well as a government site. This means that gender pay gap information will be publicly available to everyone, including customers, employees, and future recruits. Similar reporting requirements have applied to larger public sector employers since 31 March 2017. The first reports are due by 30 March 2018. For more information: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/gender-pay-gap-reporting

Drone laws
A new Bill, set to be published in spring 2018, will overhaul drone laws in the UK. Until now, drone use has remained largely unregulated. The new laws mean that users will need to take a basic online safety test to ensure users they are competent and aware of hazards. They’ll also need to register their drone. And, if there are grounds for suspicion, police will be able to search and seize drones.

Aviation Minister, Baroness Sugg, said, ‘under our new laws, users of all but the very smallest drones will need to take an online safety awareness test before they take to the skies. Similar to a driving theory test, the drone test will assess users’ knowledge of the rules, and make sure they are able to fly safely. When new drone users have passed their test, both they and their drones will be registered as safe to fly. Thanks to this registration system, owners of drones that are being misused will be traceable by police. And, under laws we’ll be proposing to Parliament soon, we will also give police the right to search for, and seize, a drone, where there is a reasonable belief that a crime is taking place.’

European Union (Withdrawal) Bill
2018 is crunch time for the UK Government’s Withdrawal Bill (or Repeal Bill) – the main piece of legislation which aims to make sure that European law will no longer apply in the UK after Brexit. The Withdrawal Bill will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, which took Britain into the EU, and meant that European law took precedence over laws passed in the UK Parliament. It also ends the power of the European Court of Justice in the UK. However, to ensure a smooth transition post Brexit, all existing EU legislation will be continued into domestic UK law – until certain changes may (or may not) come into force.

The Bill is one of the largest legislative projects ever undertaken in the UK. Every regulation and piece of legislation needs to be re-examined to see how they’ll work after Brexit. It’s no small task – the figures run into the tens of thousands. Capital Law will keep you posted of the relevant changes in the employment law and HR context. Undoubtedly, this is a piece of legislation we’ll be hearing a lot more about as 2018 rolls out.